I do some of my best menu planning on the train during my daily commute. I spend the thirty minutes letting my mind whirl around tossing ingredient ideas back and forth. A few things guide me from the train to the kitchen. What is in the pantry and what is the weather like. The other night it was a cold and rainy night, perfect for something bubbly, as well as cheesy. I was feeling ambitious when I walked into the house and decided to tackle making an Eggplant Parmesan Casserole. Had I lost my mind so late in the day? Guess what? It all worked out and I was still able to have dinner on the table by 7:00 pm.
It had been quite some time since I made an eggplant parmesan casserole, after making this one I wondered why we do not have it more often. As I started putting the ingredients together, I knew Lenny would be thrilled as it is one of his favorite Italian recipes. Luckily this recipe is fairly simple, and timing is everything with this recipe.
A few tips and tricks to help make this an easier cooking project:
- Use a premade tomato sauce – I always keep some homemade tomato sauce in the freezer.
- Take the time to remove some moisture from the eggplant – at least 30 minutes. If you can push it to 45 minutes that is even better. Don’t skip this step as it makes the difference between hearty eggplant parmesan and a watery one.
- Layout the flour, egg, and panko into stations to make putting everything together easier.
- Fry the eggplant until golden brown and lightly crispy.
- 1 1/2 cup basic tomato sauce
- 1 medium eggplant, cut into circles, about 1/8" - 1/4"
- 2 cups panko
- 1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup of all-purpose flour
- handful parsley, minced
- fresh oregano, 1 sprig
- fresh rosemary, 1 sprig
- 2 extra-large eggs
- 1 tablespoon water
- low moisture mozzarella cheese, grated
- kosher salt, to taste
- black pepper, to taste
- high heat fat, I like ghee or olive oil can be used
Heat oven to 350.
Cut the eggplant into circles and lay onto a cookie rack that is placed over a baking sheet. Sprinkle, heavy-handed, with kosher salt on both sides. Let sit, for at least 30 minutes but I tend to prefer 45 - 60 minutes to release as much moisture as possible.
In a shallow bowl mix the panko, 1 cup of the parmesan cheese, parsley, rosemary, and oregano together, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
In another shallow bowl beat the eggs with water until combined.
In another shallow bowl, season the flour with some salt and pepper. Set all three bowls aside.
When the eggplant is finished gently wipe the salt off of the eggplant. DO NOT RINSE - eggplant is like a sponge and will become waterlogged.
Heat about 1/2" of high heat oil in a frying pan, over low medium heat, about a 4 on my stove. Do not burn the oil.
Coat a slice of eggplant with the flour, shake off excess; dip in the egg mixture, evenly on both sides; coat with the breadcrumb mixture.
Gently add to the heated oil. I do not add more than 4 slices at a time into the frying pan. I keep the heat at about 4, which is a very low medium heat.
Cook until the slices are golden brown, about 3 - 5 minutes per side; time will depend on how hot your stove is. Remove the eggplant and place it on paper towels, to remove excess oil. Repeat the process until all of the eggplants is used.
In a medium-sized baking dish, put a thin layer of sauce, then a layer of eggplant, somewhat snug. Sprinkle with some of the remaining parmesan, some mozzarella, and then add another layer of eggplant.
Drizzle some of the sauce over the top; repeat the process with cheese and eggplant until finished
Your last layer should be eggplant with sauce; then sprinkle the remaining cheeses on top.
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for 15 minutes until the cheese is bubbly.